Staff absences the biggest immediate challenge for trusts

31 December 2021

Responding to the latest winter sitrep figures the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

"These figures confirm the worrying spike in staff absences affecting hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services.

"This is the biggest immediate challenge for trusts as they deal with the surge in Omicron cases together with continuing pressures on emergency care, urgent planned care that cannot be delayed any longer and the ongoing vaccination programme.

"In that context it is reassuring to see bed occupancy levels stabilising, albeit at a high level.

"And there has been some progress in ensuring patients are discharged promptly when they are medically fit to return home or to other community settings.

"That reflects effective collaboration between trusts and partners across health and care in the face of continuing severe pressures.

"It will be particularly important in the coming days to look out for evidence of severe COVID-19 symptoms affecting older, vulnerable patients and impacting on critical care as we saw earlier in the year. We haven't seen that on a major scale yet, but it still could arrive.

"So it's absolutely right that the NHS is putting in place plans for a 'super surge'. It's hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

"And the government must stand ready to act on restrictions if needed.

"Yet again, we see NHS staff working flat out through the festive period in very tough and uncertain circumstances.

"It's vital they have quick and easy access to tests, so they can get back to work safely without unnecessary delays."

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